Street Law Brings Law School to the Kids

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 09, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Love kids? Love the law? Still a student yourself? Well, Street Law might be for you. Street Law is a long-running, grassroots legal education effort that sends law students into high schools, to teach practical legal lessons to the youth.

The program helps give kids basic legal literacy (more than they'd get watching CSI, at least) on fundamental legal issues, from civil rights law, to criminal law, to employment law, while also helping law students develop their leadership skills and a commitment to public interest.

Street Law 101

Street Law grew out of a program at Georgetown Law that sent law students into Washington, D.C. high schools to engage with and educate their community on the law. Forty-four years later, and Street Law now has programs across 100 different law schools, bringing community-focused legal education to students from Los Angeles to New York City -- and then some. Street Law has even grown to become international in scope, with programs in Jordan, Ghana, and Azerbaijan, plus 37 other countries.

Through the law school program, Street Law works with students to bring legal education into the classroom, providing resources, teaching materials, and curriculum development assistance. Those programs can cover everything from the rights of student workers, to basic criminal law issues, to important Supreme Court cases.

On top of the law student programs, Street Law also offers professional development opportunities for teachers, international exchange programs, and a legal diversity pipeline program focused on getting young people of color to pursue a legal career.

Good for Both High School and Law Students

Obviously, the major beneficiaries of Street Law programs are the high school students. But law students gain as well. For law students with an interest in youth and the law, Street Law can be an important way to connect those passions.

And for aspiring J.D.'s who don't even care about kids, there's still plenty to gain. "Even if you're a law student who's not interested in working on youth issues, Street Law can be a valuable experience," says Alexandra Mateus, a 3L who is president of the University of Southern California's Street Law program. "Having to get up in front of a classroom of judgmental teens is really good for your public speaking skills. Plus, because a lot of lesson plans are based on the 1L curriculum, such as torts, you are gaining a deeper understanding of the material."

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